The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Toronto Telegram (Toronto, ON), Aug. 8, 1956

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Barquentines and Topsail Schooners

Sir, - I was pleased to read "Compiler of Schooner Days" reply to my letter in your issue re "the Rig of the Alembic" as he evidently is acquainted with the subject and I can therefore talk to him. My seven years' experience in deep water sailing vessels has no been in vain either.

He says "A barquentine's foremast is usually in three sections." Is this an admission that it may sometimes be in two sections as on the "Alembic," and the vessel still be a barquentine? The fact that the mast of the Alembic is in two parts only is because it is all that is necessary to carry the topsail and topgallant yards on a small vessel. The upper section of he mast on he Alembic has only the weight of the upper topsail and topgallant yards to support as the lower topsail yard is supported from the cap of the lowermast, but on a larger vessel the third section would be necessary to support the topgallant and royal yards. His argument that because the Alembic's mast is in two parts it makes her a topsail schooner is of no value, she did not need a third mast.

But he goes on to say that "a barquentine has no gaff and boom sail between her foremast and mainmast except in rare instances when they do carry a fore trysail," admission again that in these "rare instances" the vessel is still a barquentine. But he says "The foretrysail on a barquentine in these instances is a low sail for storm use," well the heel of the gaff would hoist three-quarters of the way up the lowermast, anyway, and could be reefed when necessary the same as a spanker. A fore trysail is a fore trysail whether high or low and is made according to requirements, so in these rare instances when she does not automatically become a topsail schooner, as my friend has admitted.

But, when a vessel carries a square foresail in addition to topsails and topgallant sail, she certainly becomes a barquentine, her rig on the fore is exactly the same as on a barque, with foresail, topsails, topgallant sail and no doubt a royal, and her having or not having a gaff and boom fore trysail would make not difference, she would in no sense become a topsail schooner on that account.

The topsail schooners I have seen wee vessels schooner rigged but also carried on her foremast a fore yard and two topsail yards and the square sails carried were upper and lower topsails only - no foresail on the fore yard. I forget now whether a topgallant sail was carried on some. of course, on a barquentine, a main topmast staysail is preferable to a foe trysail and the reason is evident, but whichever she carried she could not be called a topsail schooner.

My goodness, if she had a gaff and boom trysail abaft her foremast, how on earth would they get it over the cook's funnel when the order was given to "Bout Ship"? This is a joke. Excuse me. I have read this letter to my wife, she says it is all Greek to her.



Mr. Long considers the late alembic a barquentine because she had a square foresail. Schooner Days calls her a schooner because she had a schooner's foremast and schooner's foresail. Lloyd's latest survey described her as "an auxiliary twin -screw three-masted schooner." Here the case closes. with sympathetic regard for Mrs. Long's expressed opinion. COMPILER OF SCHOONER DAYS.

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Aug. 8, 1956
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Richard Palmer
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Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Toronto Telegram (Toronto, ON), Aug. 8, 1956